Juliette Kayyem: The days of Donald Trump catering to women in the presidential campaign are long gone
Female voters have increasingly embraced an all-hazards approach to their own security
Editor’s Note: CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem is the author of the best-selling “Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home.” She is a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, a former assistant secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration and founder of Kayyem Solutions, a security consulting firm. Kayyem is a Hillary Clinton supporter and advises the campaign on homeland security issues. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, at least not for Donald Trump.
Trump was always unlikely to win the female vote outright. After all, since the 1980s, Democratic candidates have consistently secured the support of more women than their Republican rivals. But his team no doubt hoped they could put enough of a dent in Clinton’s support with female voters – and expand the Republican advantage with college-educated white women – to put the White House within reach.
And at one stage, it looked like Trump was gaining traction with female voters; in July, one poll found him trailing by only 4 points in the coveted demographic, largely on the back of concerns about terrorism and national security in the wake of the Orlando terror attacks. These so-called security moms, a demographic that places the safety of family and community as a priority and ranks thwarting terror and ensuring national security as the fundamental role of government, were trending toward Trump.
Soon after, Trump hired Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager. Conway has made a career out of keeping the Republican Party focused on white, college-educated suburban female voters and “security moms.” His temporary adoption of the slogan “Make America Safe Again” in place of “Make America Great Again” seemed aimed at sealing the deal.
The trouble for the Republican Party is that its candidate hasn’t stayed on message. And in veering from the script, he has highlighted the evolution of the security mom.
The days of Trump catering to women, with Conway selling the goods, are long gone. In the most recent poll by NBC/WSJ, Trump is trailing Hillary Clinton by 20 points among all women. And as the allegations of sexual assault, continued attacks on women’s looks, and overall creepy language and behavior continue, it is perhaps little wonder that women have walked away from Trump, en masse.
Clearly, security moms are rising up, and that’s because their concerns are increasingly not just about national security, but personal security, too.
The same demographic that has traditionally been good to Republican candidates – white, college-educated, suburban mothers – has no time for sexual bragging and taunts in someone who wants to be president. These women seem intent on voting on issues related to their personal space, physical well-being, and their memories of those situations – big and small – that mark a world where there is still social inequality. These “security moms” are above all parents, and they have recoiled at the defense being trotted out that this was just “locker room” talk, and they are frustrated with the men and women who have defended such conduct.
As a result, the same way that homeland security is no longer just about terrorism, the “security moms” are no longer just about ISIS or al Qaeda. In my field, we use the term “all-hazards” to reflect how America’s security apparatus has changed since the terror attacks of 9/11 – and how it needs to think about every type of risk, whether it be from ISIS, climate change, cyberattacks or gun violence. Now, it seems, security moms are taking a similarly broad view of security: To them, it is about protecting their homes and children, whatever the threat. They have, in short, embraced an all-hazards approach to their own security.
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This is not to say that ISIS-inspired terror is not still a concern – it certainly is. But the shift in support among women suggests there is now a greater, more holistic security issue at play. And it is also noteworthy that Clinton is now also leading Trump with women on “response to terrorism” questions, even after the scary (but nonfatal) attacks last month in New York and New Jersey.
In the wake of the international and domestic terror attacks in 2015 and 2016, Republicans largely owned the security issue, as they have in previous elections. But with Trump’s erratic temperament and crudeness being exposed almost daily, it has become virtually impossible for the Republican candidate to wear the security mantle.
After the attacks in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, San Bernardino and Orlando, Donald Trump and his team were in hot pursuit of the “security mom” vote. They were right to zero in on this demographic. Unfortunately for them, the more security moms have seen of his campaign, the less secure they have felt with the idea of a President Trump.